BetterDoctor’s Ad-Free Physician Search Tool Goes Nationwide

10/11/12Follow @wroush

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release a native app. “The team background is from mobile apps and games, so this will be the core focus going forward,” Tulla says.

BetterDoctor populates its backend database with data from insurance companies, consumer review sites, medical licensing boards, and the like. The company collects data from 40 to 50 sources altogether, Tulla says. But just as important, Tulla and Tolvanen have focused on building a simple, attractive, easy-to-use search interface that worked equally well on desktop and mobile platforms. “Some people say simple is boring, but I think simple is hard,” Tulla says. “We want to make sure you can find some value in two clicks—what kind of doctor, what insurance plans, and the quality metrics.”

Once a patient has found a doctor they might like on BetterDoctor, the next step is to contact their office and ask about available appointments. That’s the part BetterDoctor can’t really help with yet—right now the site merely shows a doctor’s office phone number.

“In the end our goal is to have the doctors define their availability on a practice level or even an individual level, but it’s a complex problem,” Tulla says. For one thing, there are hundreds of competing electronic booking and health record systems. Automating the connections—so that patients could book appointments directly through BetterDoctor’s site—would mean integrating with all of them.

A search results page on BetterDoctor

A search results page on BetterDoctor

Government incentives encouraging practices to adopt electronic systems will help with this, but standardization is still a long way off, Tulla says. “You don’t want to wait until the world is perfect. You want to build something that will work while the world is becoming perfect.” Meanwhile, a “fairly high number of people” already proceed all the way from doing a search to booking an appointment by phone, he says.

BetterDoctor has raised $650,000 in seed funding so far from individual investors, including a number of doctors. “Tens of thousands of active consumers” signed up for the Bay Area beta test, which listed 5,000 local doctors. And a handful of doctors are using what Tulla calls the “Doctor Dashboard,” where doctors or practices can add information directly to the company’s database. The company hopes to increase the number of doctors who are engaging directly with the database over time.

And it may eventually start charging practices for the new patients it sends their way. “We believe that the best model from the doctor and consumer perspective is to focus on lead generation,” Tulla says. The alternative—plastering the site with advertising—could decrease trust in the service, he says.

The day doesn’t seem very far away when the mobile and desktop Web will be the main place people turn to look for a doctor. “Twenty percent of couples met each other on the Web,” Tulla points out. “If that’s possible, then it should also be possible for you to meet a doctor.” The question is who the matchmakers will be—and while many other sites offer physician listings, Tulla hopes BetterDoctor’s will become the most detailed and trusted.

Wade Roush is Chief Correspondent and Editor At Large at Xconomy. You can subscribe to his Google Group or e-mail him at wroush@xconomy.com. Follow @wroush

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  • Guest

    In one sentence you say there are 600,000 doctor listings on the site. Then you say the listings are invitation-only. Honestly, how much curation can be involved when they start out including 600,000 doctors?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=571919102 Ari Tulla

    BetterDoctor offers a directory of doctors who pass basic threshold of quality. Only the doctor who are fully verified and have a BetterDoctor badge are invited to the platform. There is already a good amount of curation involved as there are 1.3M doctors alltogether in the US.

  • pratima

    Nice to find the post related to my searching criteria

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  • John

    MD.com also provides the ability for patients to find a doctor. Every MD in the United States has a mobile friendly website at DoctorName.MD.com – i.e. http://JohnSmith.MD.com. Check it out!